I’m not a step parent and I don’t have step parents. And although I’ve worked with many, it doesn’t take a professional to imagine that probably the hardest part of step-parenting is dealing with the ‘other parent’, who of course also happens to be your partner’s ex. Talk about tricky! I really do have great admiration for people who navigate it successfully and empathy for those who struggle with it.
Despite whatever the other parent might throw at you, whether it’s resentment, anger or jealousy, at the end of the day you want to feel proud of the way you respond. You want to walk away feeling that you’re the bigger person and give your partner every reason to feel grateful for how you managed the situation.
Here’s a few guidelines when it comes to dealing with your step-child’s other parent.
1. Treat them with Respect. Don’t insult the other parent, especially when their kids are there. This is petty behaviour. Insulting them in front of the kids only confuses the child, makes them feel as those they have to pick sides and models negative behaviour.
2. Work towards effective communication with them. You don’t have to be besties, and you don’t have to get it perfect the first time you try. Be patient with yourself and with them as you find your way through. To begin with, it might be best just to stick with the necessities of communication while you figure it out and adjust to the new circumstances.
3. Support your partner in dealing with any residual feelings such as jealousy, resentment or anger and seek professional help if you are experiencing any unshakable feelings of your own towards the other parent.
1. Do anything you don’t feel comfortable with. If your partner wants you to communicate with the other parent and you don’t feel comfortable doing that, tell them so while remaining open to the fact that someday perhaps you will feel ready to.
2. Complain to your partner about their-ex. It’s okay to discuss the things that frustrate you in order to get it off your chest and find solutions but don’t whinge and whine, bitch or moan just for the sake of it.
3. Contact the other parent without talking to your partner about it first. This is a sign of betrayed and your partner may end mis-trusting you.
Of course, it can be easier said than done. It all seems logical and straight-forward but in the moment, often we respond before we think because our emotions are triggered. And then once the dust settles, we think “why didn’t I say this, or why didn’t I do that?” This is because when our emotions such as fear, anger or jealousy are triggered, it activates our stress response, which drains all the energy from our higher logical thinking so we can’t think straight. By addressing and clearing the negative emotions from past experiences that seem to be trapped in your body, any behaviour from the “other parent” will no longer trigger these responses so you will be able to think the situation through logically.
If you want to talk further about how to navigate your way through creating a manageable relationship with the “other parent”, get in touch with me. I will help you identify the stresses causing friction between you, help you release any negative emotions that a standing in your way and help you devise positive strategies that will take you forwards to a peaceful future between you.